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New broadband plan ready March as unserved areas get FG’s attention

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The Federal Government has said that the 2020-2025 Broadband Plan is expected to be ready within the first quarter of 2020. According to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, who stated this, said the Federal Government and the Ministry are encouraging many institutions to host their data in Nigeria as advocacy continues. Pantami, in Abuja, at the weekend, said the need to boost broadband penetration from its present coverage of 37.8 percent to over 70 percent in the next five years was the pedestal for the new National Broadband Plan (NBP 2020-2025). With this, about 195 access gaps in the country, where some 40 million Nigerians reside, are expected to get FG’s attention for major development.

The Minister said pervasive broadband penetration will certainly make Nigeria a truly digital economy. Already, a 25-member committee, led by the Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cables, Funke Opeke, has been inaugurated, and the team is expected to come up with a plan by the end of Q1.

The Committee is expected to take a critical look at where the country is, after painstaking review of the 2013-2018 phase and the status of penetration now. The members were enjoined to examine the challenges with a view to proffering solutions thereto. They should also look at the position of growing and emerging technologies among others. The new NBP has the collaboration and support of the United Kingdom (UK) Government. Furthermore, Pantami has assured the industry that President Muhammadu Buhari will sign the Executive Orders.

The Minister last November proposed an Executive Order to declare telecommunications facilities as Critical National Infrastructure.To realise the objective, the minister had minuted a proposal to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the proposed Executive Order, which will be presented to President Buhari seeking to declare telecommunications facilities as critical national infrastructure.He also revealed that he had further taken steps to brief the President on the issue bothering on telecoms infrastructure including the issues of vandalisation and power.

On other areas, especially, Right of Way (RoW) charges, Pantami “I have written to all the governors in Nigeria on the need to comply with the National Economic Council (NEC) resolution on the Right of Way (RoW)”.“All the Governors had agreed to the harmonisation on the RoW charges and efforts are being made to ensure the policy is respected.”Speaking on digital society and emerging technologies, which are part of the ministry’s agenda, Pantami said the policy is conceptualised “to encourage start-ups to support our innovators, so they can deploy their inventions in Nigeria.”

In this context, the Minister envisioned that Nigeria will explore in quantifiable terms, cloud computing, nanotechnology, Fifth Generation (5G) communications, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics. Illustrating the benefits of deployment of and access to 5G, Pantami said with 5G, virtual surgery is possible in Nigeria.

The Minister emphasised that digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship are particularly important in ensuring increase in Nigeria’s GDP.He made a comparison between Nigeria and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by stating that Nigeria’s GDP is $397 billion while MIT’s GDP is about five times higher. He attributed the disparity largely to inputs of digital innovation and entrepreneurship.

Thus, the Minister declared that certificates are important when spiced with skills because that will trigger innovation. To demonstrate the paradigm shift to skills rather than mere certification, Pantami said China is at the threshold of “converting 600 universities to skills centres” having realised that skills validate certificates.The Minister, however, explained that Nigeria is so blessed and needs to leverage that potential to ensure her teaming youths acquire enduring “skills that will make them to be potential employers rather than potential employees.”


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